TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Libya's security chief arrived in Cairo with his family Monday in an apparent defection from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, The New York Times reported.
Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, Gadhafi's interior minister, landed in a private plane in Cairo with nine family members traveling on tourist visas, security officials at the airport said.
If confirmed, Abdullah's defection indicates more discord in the Gadhafi regime that had seemed stabilized following defections of Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and several others soon after the beginning of the uprising to oust Gadhafi and NATO's airstrike campaign, the Times said. Although the Gadhafi regime recently sent senior officials abroad for diplomatic negotiations or other business, those on official business typically don't travel with their families.
The Gadhafi government's ambassador, Ali Maria, told the Times by telephone he had "no information" about Abdullah's arrival or defection.
News of the possible defection came after Gadhafi lashed out at rebels Monday, calling them "rats" and "traitors," and appealing to his followers to rise against them.
In a message on Libyan television, Gadhafi called NATO the "colonizer" and said it "can now only resort to lies," Sky News reported
"The end ... of the rats is close," Gadhafi said.
He was heard but not seen on the broadcast.
Gadhafi called on supporters to "prepare for the battle to liberate" rebel-held towns.
Rebels said they seized Sorman, 38 miles west of Libya's capital, but admitted they were struggling against government forces in Zawiyah.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said Gadhafi's forces could reclaim towns and districts where rebels made inroads in recent days, the British broadcaster reported.
"Our mujahedin forces are capable of exterminating these gangs," he said.
Vowing the strikes would end and NATO would be defeated, Gadhafi urged his followers to "go to the fight in order to liberate Libya inch by inch from the traitors and from NATO," CNN reported.
Rebels have been fighting for months to drive Gadhafi from his 40-plus years of rule. NATO airstrikes began in March after the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution ordering that civilians be protected.
Col. Jumma Ibrahim, a rebel spokesman, said Sunday anti-government forces held most of Zawiyah and a field commander told CNN fighters were "clearing the city of Gadhafi forces. There are minor clashes going on inside Zawiyah."
NATO said it bombed an anti-aircraft gun belonging to Gadhafi's forces in Zawiyah Sunday. The military alliance also reported 15 "key hits" in Tripoli Sunday.
Ibrahim, the government spokesman, denied the claims and said government forces halted the rebel attacks in Zawiyah.